Wills and Estates
Drafting and Probation of Wills
Our legal firm is specialized in drafting numerous types of wills such as personal testament, mutual will, Hebrew law will, wills made by foreign residents, oral will, wills in solemn form etc.
Pre-Will Drafting Proceedings
Prior to drafting a will, our firm examines its legal implications on the tax rates that would be levied on the heirs and carefully drafts it to comply with the heirs' and the testators' needs.
Ongoing Legal Advice for Wills and Trusts
Samuel & Co. provides legal advice for testators who wish to plan a head the optimal way for dividing their assets while taking into consideration the testator's wishes and examining their volume and location, the relationships between the heirs, the tax implications and the requisites of the relevant authorities.
Management of Estates and Trusts
Our firm is well versed in fulfilling the testator's wishes and instructions to the letter via estate or trust management while taking into consideration the heirs' welfare and sensitively caring for their needs in accordance with the law.
Location and Recovery of Hidden Assets
Through the years, our firm has garnered substantial expertise in locating and recovering hidden assets such as missing people's assets, holocaust victims' assets, lost funds and estates, guardian's assets etc. Our work includes the cooperating with experts such as genealogists, civilian information experts and archives.
Pre Probate Proceedings
Samuel & Co. handles all the proceeding leading to a probate, including drafting a probate appeal, confirmation of will order and appointment of an estate trustee, handling the requisites of the relevant authorities up to obtaining an official probate and its execution.
Post Probate Proceedings
Once a probate is issued, our firm works at the various authorities (the Lands Registrar, banks, pension funds, provident funds, the Mortgages Registrar etc)for its execution and for distributing the estate between the heirs.
Excerpts from a lecture written and edited by Attorney Efrat Yosim on the subject of wills, which she had presented before members of Brith Hayalei HaEtsel on 12 November 2012:
Supposedly, we have arrived at "the best of all worlds," where we can enjoy the property we've accumulated over a lifetime; what would become of the property after we shall have departed is, purportedly, of no consequence to us. Nevertheless, the fate of our property, following our departure, is highly significant to us. This has a number of reasons:
1.1. First, this is property we have labored over all of our lives.
1.2. Second, we want to take care of our children's future.
1.3. Another reason – to prevent discord in the family, once we have moved on to a better world.
1.4. And another reason – "justice" or, alternatively, "settling accounts." Justice – as in just reward, with those who were good to us, say, a close friend who gave us a loan in times of need or a family member who needs of our help the most. As to settling accounts – to each according to his deeds …
Consequently, a will is a highly valuable document, its effect is not only economic but emotional, as well. This is your final say in this world, and it is how you will be remembered – for better or worse. It's how you'll be remembered by the ones who are near and dear to you. Your will is the final and last account in your relationship with them. The will is the last chance to pass our loved ones a final message which is everlasting and irreversible.
A will is a document of utmost importance concerning a person's hard-earned property accumulated throughout his life, and so its content and drafting must be taken seriously: it should be drafted in a professional and precise manner.
A "Will" is a legal document where an individual provides instructions regarding the disposition of his property after his death. The will, if made in one of the ways prescribed by law, once probated, is binding and any defect in it can be ameliorated. An individual's property, after his death, may called either an estate, an inheritance or, sometimes, a legacy.
There is practically an absolute freedom to bequeath, which is based on a well-known rule in Jewish law: It is a mitzvah (precept or commandment) to honor the dead's wishes (i.e., last will and testament). Respecting the wishes of the deceased is an utmost guiding principle of interpretation and probate of wills, superior to nearly all other considerations. Matters of justice and fairness are inconsequential. Therefore, in the case where a person dies and it turns out that not a penny was left to his family, while some esoteric entity is the recipient of his or her very large estate, one that the decedent had no relation with during his life, such a will nevertheless will be upheld and executed. According to the principle that grants a person liberty to command the distribution of his estate, that person may exclude his wife and children from his estate; a person may prefer one child and exclude another, and even bequeath all his wealth to a charity for the welfare of abandoned cats, provided that it is a legally incorporated entity capable of handling rights and duties, as set by the law.
A will is given legal status, only after (i) the death of its author; (ii) a formal legal process, in which the heirs, or any lesser number of them, petition the Court Registrar in Charge of Estates, to accord the will legal effect; and (iii) a decree upholding the will's validity is issued. At such juncture, it receives force and effect and binding legal status. It can also be granted by a rabbinical tribunal in the presence of all parties.
Types of Wills. Say, a person decides to make a will – how does one carry it out. The law recognizes four types of wills, three of which must be in writing.
7.1. Holographic (handwritten) will – A will entirely handwritten by the testator. It should be dated in his handwriting and signed by him (manuscript signature).
Advantage: it does not need to be printed and even those who are not familiar with computers can draft a will.
The downside: It is not drafted by a lawyer, who would acknowledge the maker of the will thus such a will can be easily forged. Another drawback: It has happened that courts did not honor such wills due to illegible handwriting, vague instructions or double meanings regarding the will's instructions.
There's a joke about a farmer bequeathing his property. The farm is bequeathed to the son who continues farming, however, the two horses he owns, he gives one to each of his two sons, without specifying which horse will go to which son. The sons, Benjamin and Yuda split the two horses between them. They decided to mark the horses. They tied a piece of yarn on Benjamin's horse. A neighbor, who had always tried to sow discord between the two brothers, got up in the middle of the night and removed the piece of yarn. The next day they decided to mark the Benjamin's horse by cutting some hair of his tail. The troublemaking neighbor got up at night and cut the same amount of hair of Yoda's horse's tail. The brothers got up in the morning, saw the effect and felt desperate. Finally Benjamin said, you know what Yoda, I'll take the brown horse and you'll take the white one ...
Conclusion my friends: Instructions in a will should be sufficiently clear and detailed even for such heirs as these two country bumpkins, Benjamin and Yoda!
7.2. A Witnessed Will – A will can be typed, the maker has to approve its content by signing it, in the presence of two witnesses. The two witnesses stand to confirm, by their signature, that (i) the maker had signed it before them and (ii) declared that it is his last will and testament and (iii) that he signed it of his own free will.
It is important to insure that the will will be acknowledged, with an attorney's signature, one who will authenticate the identities of the maker and witnesses.
Hard to forge, for there are two witnesses and an acknowledgement by a lawyer.
A will that's printed is clearer, more readable and it's easier to follow the intent of the maker.
Usually a lawyer is involved in the will's preparation, who can insure the will is worded legally and properly.
In the case of a will that is prepared by a law firm, the law firm makes sure to bring two witnesses who are neutral and have no interest in the will.
In terms of reliability and safety, that is the one that's most recommended.
Often, drafting a witnessed will at a lawyer's office requires two meetings. During the first, the lawyer will want to hear about all assets and to whom will each be bequeathed. After the client's departure, the lawyer will draft the will. During the second meeting, the client will sign it in front of two witnesses.
7.3. A will Executed Before an Authority – A will can be acknowledged before a judge or registrar, a religious court judge or a notary.
Advantage: an element of ceremony!
Disadvantage: it is a long process, because of the court system's heavy loads; it involves submission of applications and payment of fees.
7.4. An oral will – This option is available only in the event that the maker is on the verge of death, or perceives himself as such. In such a case, the individual could declare his will before two witnesses who understand the maker's language. The witnesses must record minutes of the event. Then the will has to be deposited with the Court Registrar in Charge of Estates.
Advantage: in the event of suddenly nearing death, the testator has a quick solution circumventing the need to spend time and effort in securing a written will.
Disadvantage: that what you say will be not be recorded accurately or worse – be intentionally distorted.
An oral will is rendered void one month after it comes into being, if the circumstances that justified its making have passed and the maker is still alive.